The extinction of Carcharocles megalodon has generally been attributed to climate change. Scientists have recently debunked that claim with new research.

The great shark was the largest ever known to exist, as long as 18 meters (59 feet) with a jaw as large as three meters. They were three times the size of the modern great white shark. Its teeth were bigger than an adult human hand. Yet, the species did not survive.

The jaw bone of a Carcharocles megalodon

Catalina Pimiento and Christopher F, Clements from the University of Zurich’s Paleontological Institute and Museum studied the density and migration patterns of these prehistoric mega-predators. They analyzed over 200 records on the sharks from museums and databases around the world. During the early Miocene period, about 16 million years ago, the sharks inhabited the warm waters off of North America, Europe and the Indian Ocean before expanding their range in the late Miocene period to include Asia, Australia and the South American coasts.

The researchers write,

A meta-analysis of C. Megalodon occurance records was performed using the Paleobiology Database as a platform. The data were binned into geological time slices, and the circular home range around each data point was mapped in reconstructions made in Gplates. We then quantitatively assessed the species geographical range and global abundance over time, and the relationship between distribution and climate.

megalodon skeleton hed
A c. Megalodon skeleton

The study states that the species went into decline around 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene era and glacial period. Though there were temperature fluctuations during this period, researchers concluded that this did not cause the shark’s demise. Actually, the loss of smaller marine life, the shark’s main food source, and competition from the large predatory ancestors of great white sharks and killer whales contributed to C. megalodon’s extinction.

The research concludes,

Our results suggest that biotic factors, and not direct temperature limitations, were probably the primary drivers of the extinction of the largest marine apex predators that ever lived.

Competition for dwindling food sources brought down the greatest of sharks. Keep that in mind at the next grocery store sale.

Nancy Loyan Schuemann

Nancy Loyan Schuemann is a writer specializing in architecture, safes, profiles, histories and a multi-published fiction and non-fiction author and is Nailah, Middle Eastern dancer.

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